Quantcast

Streaking Eagles, sweeps and a PairWise party

Seeing as I don’t care about Bruno Mars, I’ll take this opportunity at halftime of the Super Bowl to tell you about three things I do care about that I learned this past weekend:

1. Eagles, Gaudreau streaking towards a title

I was a tad bit concerned on Friday night that two of the nation’s longest streaks might end. But both Boston College and forward/Hobey favorite Johnny Gaudreau both kept streaks alive. BC eked out a 2-0 win at Providence to stretch its unbeaten streak to 12 games. And a late third-period insurance goal by Johnny Gaudreau extended the forward’s point streak to a nation’s best 21 games. Both look like they are closing in on hardware as BC has created measurable distance over second-place Northeastern and Massachusetts-Lowell for the regular-season crown (eight point lead, six games remaining). And Gaudreau continues to shine, each day closing in on an easy-vote Hobey Baker.

2. Sweeps follow splits

A week after five different Hockey East series ended in splits, both two-game series played this weekend were sweeps. UMass Lowell beat Merrimack back-to-back nights in a home-and-home series while New Hampshire took two from Notre Dame at home. Both teams that came out on top (both hampered by significant injuries) took major steps forward. The River Hawks are now tied with Northeastern for second place in Hockey East with a game in hand (and they’ll need to come out ahead as NU owns the tie breaker). New Hampshire, meanwhile, moved into fourth place, a key spot that could translate not only into a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs, but also a home ice spot in the quarterfinals.

3. Pairwise still looking positive

When the Pairwise premiered this season and six Hockey East teams were above college hockey’s version of the Mendoza Line, we all knew it would be far-fetched to see all six make the NCAA field. Personally, I felt that the remaining league play would likely mean at least half of the eight Hockey East teams in contention for NCAA bids would fall out quickly. But three weeks later, I’m still very optimistic that Hockey East will be extremely well represented in the NCAA field. BC and Lowell are quickly working towards becoming NCAA locks, while Northeastern and Providence are still in the top 11. Even though Notre Dame fell out of the top 15, New Hampshire jumped into the 14th spot. Plenty of hockey to play, but I really like the way the Pairwise is trending.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 31 – Feb. 3

The good news is that I played Comeback Kid last week, going 6-0 on Saturday after a disastrous 0-5 Friday. The bad news is that I lost a game to Jim in the process.

Dave last week: 6-5-0
Jim last week: 7-4-0
Dave’s record-to-date: 114-63-22
Jim’s record-to-date: 118-59-22

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 31

Boston College at Providence 
Dave’s pick: In this marquee match-up of the weekend, I’m picking BC. I’m going with the Eagles against all comers until further notice.
BC 4, PC 2
Jim’s pick: This should be a tight game but the way Providence gave up goals last weekend, I’m not sure that will be true.
BC 5, PC 3

Merrimack at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: Will the River Hawks get any of their walking wounded back? For one game, at least, it won’t matter. They’ll win either way.
UML 4, MC 2
Jim’s pick: I think this will be a tough game for the shorthanded River Hawks, though believe they can win.
UML 2, MC 1

Boston University at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: It’s hard to see either of these teams avoiding the bottom-six, one-game play-in round of this year’s Hockey East playoffs. Tough times for both teams. I’ll go with home ice deciding this result, leaving BU 0-9-0 on the road.
UMass 4, BU 3
Jim’s pick: Can this finally be BU’s road win? They have been a better Friday team than Saturday of late.
BU 3, UMass 2

Notre Dame at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: By far, the toughest picks this week are this series. Call me stubborn, but I still see the Irish putting on a stretch run surge. I think UNH will lose a game it would have won with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Grayson Downing in the lineup.
ND 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I’m picking the Wildcats at home, at least on Friday.
UNH 4, ND 3

Saturday, Feb. 1

Notre Dame at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: This series really has split written all over it, but I’m going with an Irish sweep even though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats do the deed instead.
ND 4, UNH 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I just don’t see a sweep in this game, as Dave said.
ND 3, UNH 1

Massachusetts-Lowell at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: I’d love to make this call after I saw who was in the lineup because Merrimack is a tough opponent in its barn. I’m guessing that two of the River Hawks injured last week are back and Lowell earns an important sweep.
UML 3, MC 2
Jim’s pick: As great as Merrimack has been at home of late, Lowell has always played Merrimack tough at Lawler.
UML 3, MC 2

Monday, Feb. 3

Beanpot

Harvard vs. Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Have I ever picked Harvard to win in the Beanpot? Even a single game? Perhaps not, in which case I thank the Crimson for fattening up my lifetime picks record.
NU 5, HU 2
Jim’s pick: On paper this says NU all the way. But we know that never matters in a Beanpot. Still, I’m picking the Huskies.
NU 4, HU 3

Boston University vs. Boston College
Dave’s pick: This is about as lopsided as me versus a drumstick on Thanksgiving. The Terriers may have historically used their Beanpot magic in contests like this, but they’re 1-8-1 since the start of December and BC stands atop Hockey East at 11-1-1.
BC 5, BU 2
Jim’s pick: What Dave said.
BC 6, BU 3

Quizzing the coaches as the Beanpot approaches

beanpot Quizzing the coaches as the Beanpot approaches

Boston College has won the last four Beanpot titles, including in 2011 when Brian Gibbons held the prize (photo: Melissa Wade).

BOSTON – It’s one of the great traditions of college hockey: The calendar turns to February, and we turn our attention to the Beanpot.

It is without a doubt the most unique in-season tournament in college hockey. The event serves as a collective two-week homecoming for alumni from the four schools and a launching pad for the final month of the regular season.

Love it or hate it, the Beanpot grips the sporting consciousness in Boston for two weeks.

The festivities officially got under way on Tuesday, when all four head coaches (Ted Donato of Harvard, Jim Madigan of Northeastern, David Quinn of Boston University and Jerry York of Boston College), their team captains, and members of the media gathered at TD Garden for the annual pre-tournament luncheon.

We took the opportunity to ask each coach the same set of questions, to compare how each views his team’s performance to date and what will be the keys to victory over the next two weeks:

USCHO: If you could describe your season to date in one word, what would it be and why?

Donato: Close. In our league, we’ve lost a lot of close games. We’re learning how to win. Eight out of 10 losses have been by one goal. We’re very close.

Madigan: Resilient. It’s a team that was faced with some obstacles early. From the preseason poll, people from outside didn’t believe we could win. When we got into the season, guys worked hard and showed a lot of resiliency in games. It’s been borne into their approach this season.

Quinn: Inconsistent. When we’re good, we can be pretty good, but when we’re bad, we can be pretty bad. I think a lot of it has to do with youth — nine freshmen in the lineup every night. Not only are we young in class, but their ages too: We don’t have a bunch of 20-year old freshmen.

York: Two words — more cohesive. I think we’re playing better as a team. We stress all the time that the team that plays best [each] night will win the game. Records don’t matter. That’s our mind-set.

USCHO: Give us an outlook of your team’s chances for the tournament. What’s the one thing that needs to go right for you to win?

Donato: When you play in this atmosphere and want to have success, goaltending is a key for any possible championship.

Madigan: Goaltending. It’s a short tournament. Any team I’ve been on that has won this tournament — it’s been three — we’ve had great goaltending. It can be a cliché, but you’re talking about two games. If you get great goaltending, you build momentum that way, and only need a couple of goals to win.

Quinn: We’re going to have to play simple hockey. We get into trouble when we try to play special hockey and make special plays. If we can manage to keep things simple for 60 minutes, we give ourselves a chance night-in, night-out.

York: Discipline. Not just in penalties, but defensive zone coverage, discipline to be in the right position for yourself, [line] changes … anything that involves doing the right thing at the right time.

USCHO: If there’s an X factor, or perhaps a story that we haven’t heard of yet that might emerge from your team in this tournament, what do you think it’ll be?

Donato: Offensively, we have another gear that we haven’t gotten to yet. We’re a skilled, fast team, and we’re close to being an explosive team offensively. Hopefully we’ll be able to have things clicking for this Beanpot.

Madigan: It’ll be some of the secondary scoring, which we’re just starting to get.

Quinn: I’m going to say Robbie Baillargeon. He was great on Friday (vs. Vermont). Maybe the Baillargeon-[Danny] O’Regan-[Evan] Rodrigues line. Hopefully if Rodrigues is healthy — he’s still not quite there yet — I’m anxious to see what that line can do.

York: I’d like to see more balanced scoring from our club. We’re getting a lot of goals from the same players. That could put us over the top. It might be a defenseman or a forward, but I’d like that to happen. They don’t necessarily have to put up big numbers, but winning their shifts on the ice is one of our goals.

USCHO: One last “one word” question: What one word would you use to describe the Beanpot, what it means to you or your club?

Donato: Excitement.

Madigan: Magical.

Quinn: Special.

York: Exciting.

Splits across the league and disappointments

These  are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Four points can’t get any harder than this.

Coaches have long bemoaned the difficulty of getting four points against any Hockey East opponent, regardless of position in the standings.

Well, this weekend became their quintessential example. All five league series ended in splits. (With an 11-team league, someone has got to be the odd man out and this time it was Boston College, which defeated Penn State in its lone contest.)

Arguably, the scheduling helped produce splits.  Three of the five series were of the home-and-home variety and matched teams closely positioned in the standings: Providence vs. Massachusetts-Lowell, Maine vs. New Hampshire and Merrimack vs. Massachusetts.

The other two series involved teams with a sizeable gap in their records but both of those two-game sets were held at the barn of the school lower in the standings: Northeastern at Notre Dame and Vermont at Boston University.

All that said, it’s been a long time (as far as I can recall) since every single series resulted in a split.

2. Maybe Lowell simply isn’t as good as I’ve thought.

The River Hawks looked so dominant last year once the first 10 or so games were out of the way. And with almost everyone coming back this season, they were an obvious pick to again be one of the league’s top teams.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to hit their stride this year and perform like last season’s edition, but I’m wondering if perhaps that just isn’t going to happen.

To be clear, splitting in a home-and-home with Providence is no embarrassment. In fact, it’s a pretty predictable outcome. And Lowell is still ninth in the PairWise.

But the way the River Hawks lost at Providence on Friday is a concern. Leading 4-2 with eight minutes left in regulation, they gave up three goals in less than four minutes. And not one of them was a power-play goal.

Three even-strength goals in the latter half of the third period to blow a two-goal lead? The River Hawks?  And Connor Hellebuyck (who didn’t give up more than three goals in any contest last year following his inaugural game) surrendering five to a team not named BC?

I’d have bet the ranch against that happening.

3. Maybe Notre Dame isn’t as good as I’ve thought and Northeastern definitely is better.

I’ve said it before (and then picked them to lose), but the Huskies have earned a ton of respect. They’re in second place and tied for seventh in the PairWise. They win at home (6-3-1) and on the road (8-4-1).

For the second time in as many weeks, they’ve won while getting outshot by a considerable margin. On Friday, 15th-ranked Notre Dame outshot them 30-14, but the Huskies did more than prevail, shutting out the Irish, 4-0, in their own barn.

For Notre Dame, I’m feeling the same concerns I have about Lowell.  Last season, the Irish finished second in the CCHA and then won the league tournament.

This year, though, they’re still under .500 within Hockey East. I was expecting a contender.  Yes, they’ve suffered injuries during key stretches, but that’s true of just about everyone. (See New Hampshire beating Maine on Friday without Trevor van Riemsdyk and Grayson Downing.) And yes, they’re still 12th in the PairWise due to strong nonconference results.

But we’re getting to the point where expectations based on last year’s results no longer make sense.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 24-25

I’ve closed to within three after being down by five a few weeks ago. Here’s hoping I pick up two more this week.

I’m making some risky picks, so if they don’t work out, I’ll just claim my anesthesiologist got to me early.

Dave last week: 10-3-2
Jim last week: 9-4-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 108-58-22
Jim’s record-to-date: 111-55-22

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 24

Massachusetts-Lowell at Providence
Dave’s pick: The only sane pick in this home-and-home series is to go with the home team each night. But when have I ever been called sane? My gut tells me that Lowell’s strong stretch run begins this weekend. And from an analytic side, I think that Lowell’s league-best defense and Providence’s league-worst power play proves to be a toxic combination for the Friars.
UML 2, PC 1 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I’m actually going to go with Dave on this one. Lowell’s defense has been pretty incredible in recent weeks. The question is whether or not the offense can come alive. I think it can.
UML 3, PC 1

Vermont at Boston University
Dave’s pick: BU has the league’s worst team defense ranking? (Other than UMass, no other team is even close.) Say it ain’t so.
UVM 4, BU 2
Jim’s pick: This BU team is so damaged by injuries that I can’t pick for them even at home.
UVM 3, BU 2

Northeastern at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: The Huskies have been playing well and are 7-3-1 on the road, but I think Notre Dame’s second-half push begins here. The Irish are also 11-3-1 at home.
ND 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: As strong as Northeastern has been, I think home ice matters a lot in this series.
ND 3, NU 2

Maine at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: Insane pick number two: I’m going with the Black Bears despite their 0-7-2 road record. I just like the way they’ve been playing, other than that loss to BC (and I give everyone a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card against the Eagles).
Maine 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Here is where Dave and I will disagree. UNH will be as hungry as imaginable after the way last weekend went at home against Union. Not to say that Maine won’t be hungry, but home ice is my deciding factor.
UNH 3, Maine 1

Merrimack at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: I was all set to instinctively go with a home-team split in this series, but I can’t get over UMass losing at home to a 6-15-1 AIC team while the Warriors were splitting with fourth-ranked Quinnipiac. Is this Insane Pick Number 3? Especially since it means I’ve gone with the road team on four of the five Friday night contests?
MC 2, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: I think UMass can come out with a win here. If I’m wrong, I let Dave right back into this race. If I’m right, it’s lights out!
UMass 3, MC 1

Saturday, Jan. 12

Vermont at Boston University
Dave’s pick: Sorry, but I’m not picking BU until the results change, especially when matched against a 12-8-3 Vermont team that has a winning road record.
UVM 4, BU 3
Jim’s pick: I can’t say it any better myself.
UVM 3, BU 1

Providence at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the River Hawks sweeping for the reasons mentioned above. But I wouldn’t be shocked at any outcome in this series.
UML 2, PC 1
Jim’s pick: Lowell has been a better road team than a home team this season. And though I like Providence for the split, I’ve had such bad luck calling splits that I’ll go out on the limb with a River Hawks sweep.
UML 3, PC 2

Northeastern at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: Is it me or is this an exceptionally brutal week for picks? I’m going with the Irish sweep even though the Huskies have proven me wrong before.
ND 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: I’m not picking splits, right? Well, maybe not.
NU 4, ND 2

Massachusetts at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: Finally, a pick I have total confidence in.  Uh-oh. I know what that means.
MC 3, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Merrimack does play well at home. And another split pick. Kill me now.
MC 4, UMass 1

New Hampshire at Maine
Dave’s pick: I just can’t figure out UNH. It’s utter insanity to pick Maine to sweep a team as good as the Wildcats, but this is my week of insanity.
Maine 3, UNH 2
Jim’s pick: Okay, make that three split picks in a row. Honestly, my gut say tie here, but that will never be my pick.
Maine 4, UNH 2

Boston College at Penn State
Dave’s pick: I’d bet the ranch on this one.
BC 6, PSU 1
Jim’s pick: As Dave said, bet the ranch, particularly the way that BC’s offense is clicking right now.
BC 5, PSU 1

Opening a gap, two teams with lost weekends and stealing two points

These are the three things I think I learned this weekend.

1. The regular season title is Boston College’s to lose.

The Eagles created more separation at the top of the Hockey East standings, defeating Boston University and Maine, while no other league team picked up four points in the standings. With a 10-1-1 Hockey East record, they now hold a six-point lead over their closest competitor.

Massachusetts-Lowell looks like the one team that could threaten BC, in part because those two teams appear to be the class of the league and also because the River Hawks are the one contender that not only holds three games in hand on BC but also plays the Eagles twice late in the season.

2. New Hampshire and Boston University were the only teams to lose twice on the weekend.

A couple of years ago, I’d have had a tough time imagining the writing of that last sentence. But it’s the new reality.

New Hampshire got swept by sixth-ranked Union, which is no disgrace and also has no effect on the Hockey East standings. But it does drop the Wildcats to a 1-8 record against Top 10 teams. They’ve done considerably better against teams ranked 11th-20th, but until they prove otherwise, it looks like there’s a ceiling on how far this team can go.

For BU, the talk isn’t about ceilings but floors.  The Terriers’ two losses this weekend came at the hands of BC and Lowell, so those were four lost points in the standings. It’s almost gotten to the point of kicking a team when it’s down, but the Terriers’ performance in the first period against Lowell spoke volumes. They were outshot 19-2.

Can anyone recall the last time BU ranked ninth in Hockey East scoring this late in the season?  I can’t.

And now that top defensemen Matt Grzelcyk is reportedly out for the season, the outlook appears even more grim.  Unless the Terriers start winning, this may be the last I discuss their plight.

3. Northeastern stole an important two points on Friday.

The Huskies moved into second place with a 3-2 win over Vermont that defied logic. They were outshot 48-19, and after two periods they led 1-0 despite being outshot 34-11.

Of course, there was some logic to the win. Clay Witt has been a revelation in goal this season — a save percentage of .943! — and he was a stud in net on this night. Additionally, Braden Pimm, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, may be the least appreciated 15-goal scorer in college hockey.

That said, since Vermont won the following evening, the Catamounts have to be kicking themselves over the lost opportunity, especially since the loss counted as a league game and the win did not.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 17-21

Here I was thinking I had an awful week of picks last week. Until I realized that Dave was equally as bad.

Jim last week: 6-4-1
Dave last week: 6-4-1
Jim to-date: 102-51-20
Dave to-date: 98-55-20

Friday, January 16

Boston University at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Though they say throw out the records when these two teams meet, when the records are this different I can’t do as such.
BC 4, BU 2
Dave’s pick: If BU were playing better, throwing out the records just might make some sense but not  now.
BC 5, BU 2

Vermont at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: I’ve been impressed by both of these teams thus far but think home ice could be the difference here.
NU 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed, even on the score, although I feel like I’m oh-for-the-season with the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2

Maine at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: If Lowell wasn’t coming off a loss, I might be tempted to pick against them. But this River Hawks team should be hungry enough to win on home ice.
UML 3, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Maine, and Lowell has been more inconsistent than the juggernaut we saw last year, but I’m still going with the River Hawks.
UML 3, Maine 2 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: I have a feeling this series is going to be a split. But I’ve been burned really bad calling splits this season so I’m picking both for the Friars.
PC 4, CC 2
Dave’s pick: Too bad.  I wish Jimmy went with a split because I’ll be stunned if the Friars don’t sweep the 2-15-3 Tigers. (Even though PC has only a tie in its last four games.)
PC 5, CC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: LSSU is a better team than most think. But Notre Dame, especially at home, is darn good too.
ND 3, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: I’ve been disappointed in the Irish this year. I mean, 3-5-1 in league play is far from what I expected. But only a tough-looking schedule down the stretch keeps me from thinking they won’t crank it up a notch.
ND 4, LSSU 2

Merrimack at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: Nothing thus far tells me that Merrimack has the weapons to beat an excellent Quinnipiac squad.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I spent all least year doubting Quinnipiac. Not again.
QU 4, MC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This series should tell us a lot about how good a team New Hampshire is. And again, though thinking a split, I think a sweep will be my pick.
UNH 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I cry unfair! Jimmy has taken my patented “should be a split, but I’m picking a sweep” mantra and stolen it. That makes this monkey see, monkey do.
UNH 4, Union 3

Saturday, January 18

Maine at Boston College
Jim’s pick: After how much Maine impressed me last weekend, it’s hard to think I’d pick the Black Bears to lose twice. But that’s exactly what I’m doing.
BC 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Same here. BC is just too good, especially considering the venue.
BC 4, Maine 2

Boston University at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: On paper this should be all River Hawks. I’m betting with paper.
UML 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: Not to be harsh, but if the Terriers were a stock, I’d be selling for whatever I could get.
UML 4, BU 1

Quinnipiac at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Even on home ice, I don’t think Merrimack can beat QU.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Unfortunately, I can’t disagree. I’d really like an easier foe so I could go with the Warriors, but not against Quinnipiac.
QU 3, MC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Another home sweep for the Irish.
ND 4, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: Grrrr.  I can’t make up any ground matching Jim’s picks, but I just don’t see Notre Dame losing this game.
ND 3, LSSU 2

Vermont at Northeastern (NC)
Jim’s pick: Though I feel like Vermont could win, I’m not confident enough to pick that way.
NU 2, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: Do I pick Vermont just to differ with Jim?  No, I’m going with the picks I wrote down before seeing his choices. I do think it’ll be a higher-scoring game than Jim does.
NU 4, UVM 3 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: My heart says split, my pick says sweep.
PC 4, CC 3
Dave’s pick: I wish Jimmy had gone with his heart, because every molecule of my body is screaming PC sweep here. (If not, the Friars’ current mini-slump becomes a cause for concern.)
PC 4, CC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: See above. Ditto.
UNH 4, Union 3
Dave’s pick: Well, I’m not picking against BC on Tuesday, so this is my last opportunity to disagree with Jim. If I don’t, then this will be the first time in a  very long time (ever?) that we’ve totally matched picks.  On my sheet of paper, I had UNH sweeping, but I’m feeling boxed in here so… I’m going to reverse course just to disagree. But I don’t feel good about this….
Union 3, UNH 2 (OT)

Tuesday, January 21

Boston College at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Things don’t get much easier for the Warriors.
BC 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I can’t pick against the Eagles these days.
BC 5, MC 2

 

Rain delays, panic buttons and a sign of life

Yes, you can have a rain delay in hockey. That leads my list of three things I learned this week in Hockey East:

1. If you play hockey at a baseball stadium, expect a rain delay

Rain delay isn’t a term that hockey fans are familiar with, but on Saturday those in attendance at Frozen Fenway had the unique opportunity to experience such a delay. Thunder, lightning and heavy rains interrupted the first period of the game between Boston University and Maine at Fenway Park as part of the final game of Frozen Fenway. Credit to all those involved who worked extremely hard to get the ice surface back to playing shape in the delay that lasted 1 hour, 9 minutes. At the end of the day, somehow both hockey games were completed with Maine and Northeastern coming away winners.

2. Time to push the panic button at BU?

Anyone who tolerated the rain delay at Fenway now know that there is cause for concern for Boston University. The Terriers fell behind 5-0 to Maine before rallying to get within two before surrendering two empty-netters for a 7-3 final. The BU defense looked pedestrian for much of the first half of the game as Maine scored at will, including four first period goals. BU is 2-5-1 in Hockey East and sits in 10th place. There are still 12 league games left for BU, but this is quickly becoming a lost season for the struggling Terriers and first-year head coach David Quinn.

3. Merrimack back to winning ways

Merrimack had plenty of reason for concern heading to Clarkson for a two-game series this weekend. The Warriors entered the weekend with just a single win in their last 10 games (1-6-3) and were headed on the road to face a very good team in 11th-ranked Clarkson. A rally on Friday night to tie the game was spoiled as Merrimack fell, 3-2. But Saturday’s 4-0 shutout provided a lot of good signs for the struggling Warriors club. For starters, the Warriors potted four goals (one was an empty netter) and two of those came on the power play, something that needs to click if Merrimack is to have any success. On top of that, Rasmus Tirronen finished the game with a 34-save shutout. It is still a long-way back for the Warriors, but Saturday’s win could be the jump start this team needs.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 10-14

I picked up a single game on Jim last week. I don’t know whether that’s good news because it’s improvement or bad news because I needed more.

Dave last week: 7-3-4
Jim last week: 6-4-4
Dave’s record-to-date: 92-51-19
Jim’s record-to-date: 96-47-19

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 10

Providence at Boston College
Dave’s pick: Jon Gillies may be back, but the Friars have hit a few potholes. BC isn’t the right team to be facing now.
BC 3, PC 1
Jim’s pick: Home ice may be the deciding factor here.
BC 3, PC 2

Merrimack at Clarkson
Dave’s pick: Clarkson is 12-2-1 against everyone else, but 0-4-1 against Hockey East. That would argue for picking the Warriors, but they’re still winless on the road.
Clarkson 3, MC 2
Jim’s pick: Clarkson has just enough talent to beat the offensively-challenged Warriors.
Clarkson 3, MC 1

Massachusetts at Cornell
Dave’s pick: The momentum the Minutemen had been picking up before the holiday break seems all gone now. Cornell is just too good, especially at Lynah.
Cornell 4, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: If this was a home game for UMass, I’d be tempted to pick the Minutemen. The fact is, it’s not.
Cornell 3, UMass 2

Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: It’s great that the Chargers kept their program alive, but at 1-21-0 they’re easy pickings for the Irish.
ND 5, UAH 1
Jim’s pick: No brainer here.
ND 6, UAH 2

Saturday, Jan. 12

Frozen Fenway: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Both teams are coming on strong now, but the River Hawks are the stronger of the two.
UML 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: This is a tough one to pick given that NU won the first meeting. I assume Lowell won’t hit four posts this time.
UML 4, NU 2

Frozen Fenway: Maine vs. Boston University
Dave’s pick: The Terriers just lost at home to a 2-11-2 Dartmouth team, running their winless  streak to five games.
Maine 4, BU 1
Jim’s pick: This one shouldn’t be close. Though it likely will be.
Maine 3, BU 2

Boston College at Brown
Dave’s pick: Brown has played .500 hockey this year. That ain’t good enough against the Eagles.
BC 5, Brown 2
Jim’s pick: Agree. This is BC’s game to lose.
BC 3, Brown 2

Dartmouth vs. New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: UNH may be going places this year; Dartmouth isn’t.
UNH 4, DC 2
Jim’s pick: Very tough pick given that Dartmouth made BU look bad at home. Manchester has rarely been kind to UNH either. I’m going Green.
DC, 3 UNH 2

Merrimack at Clarkson
Dave’s pick: I’d be picking the Warriors to split at home, but not on the road.
Clarkson 3, MC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: This is one good, and very hungry, Clarkson team.
Clarkson 4, MC 1

Vermont at Colgate
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts are 8-1-2 over their last 11. I’m lumbering onto that bandwagon.
UVM 4, Colgate 2
Jim’s pick: I’d feel better if this was in Vermont. No sure the Cats can handle a tough road game against a team that just tied and beat No. 1 and No. 2.
Colgate 3, UVM 2

Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: Anything I say at this point would seem like picking on the Chargers. So I’ll just list the score.
ND 6, UAH 1
Jim’s pick: Second night is typically a lot tighter for the Chargers. Doesn’t mean it’s a win..
ND 3, UAH 2

Tuesday, Jan. 14

American International at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: UMass has struggled in its last few games, but the Yellow Jackets are 1-10 over their last 11.
UMass 4, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: Western Mass. battle goes to the hosts.
UMass 4, AIC 2

 

The effect of World Juniors, facing a team three times, and teams going in different directions

These are three things I think I learned this past week.

1. Some teams handled the loss of their players to the World Juniors better than others.

This isn’t exactly front page news since you’d expect this outcome, at least to some extent.  And a number of players, most notably from Boston College and Notre Dame, made it back for this weekend’s games.

But it is noteworthy that despite missing goaltender Thatcher Demko and defensemen Ian McCoshen and Steven Santini, BC didn’t miss a beat. The Eagles now own a five-game winning streak.

On the other hand, Providence only went 1-1-1 without goaltender stud Jon Gillies. Nick Ellis didn’t play poorly at all in Gillies’s absence, but Ellis didn’t match the 10-1-3 record and .941 save percentage of the Friars’ most important player.

Update: I overlooked a fourth game that Providence played without Gillies: a Dec. 20 win over Army. This means Ellis was actually 2-1-1 while Gillies was away. Ellis’s stats were very good against the three teams he faced with losing records: he stopped  19-of-20 shots against Army (3-14-0), 21-of-23 shots against Dartmouth (2-11-2), and 30-of-31 shots against Merrimack (4-9-3).

Obviously, those are strong results, which includes two wins and a tie with Merrimack.

The one game, though, where you could argue that Gillies’s absence cost the Friars was their one loss, 3-2 to Air Force. Ellis stopped 27-of-30 shots.

That’s not to scapegoat Ellis for not quite being Gillies’s equal. You could probably count on one hand the goalies in the country who are, and my guess is that there are plenty of teams who’d welcome Ellis with open arms.

But would Gillies have pulled out a tie or a win? I think there’s a good chance.

(Teams like Notre Dame and Boston University were fortunate enough to have their schedules line up in such a way that their World Juniors participants didn’t miss a game.)

2. Massachusetts-Lowell proved that you can beat the same team three times in a week. Almost.

One prevailing thought is that you can’t beat a good team three times in a short span of time. A week ago, the River Hawks defeated Clarkson (at the time 12-4-1) in the Catamount Cup, and then faced the Golden Knights again this past weekend.

Lowell didn’t quite sweep, but wound up with five of six points in the three games, proving how tough the River Hawks are likely to be down the stretch.

3. Perennial powers New Hampshire and BU are going in opposite directions.

UNH took on 19th-ranked Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and swept in impressive fashion, 6-3 and 5-2. Other than getting swept by BC before the break, the Wildcats have now won five of their last six games.

At the other end of the spectrum, BU is increasingly looking like a team in trouble. Winless in their last four games, the Terriers took only a single point of four in a home-and-home series with a Merrimack team that had still been looking for its first Hockey East win at the time. Then they lost at home to Atlantic Hockey ‘s Bentley Falcons. This past weekend, BU lost to a 4-7-2 Harvard team. BU fans have a right to be very concerned.

BNY Mellon Wealth Management